What is it that we sell as small firm architects? Is it a pile of paper? A bunch of technical services? A legal process required to obtain a building permit? What we sell is a desired future state. Whether we’re working with commercial, institutional or residential clients, they have an idea in their minds about how they’d like their lives to be in the future.
We’ve all experienced the moment at the end of the project when our clients finally get it and understand the value we provide. We need them to understand the value of what we do before we do it.
This week at EntreArchitect Podcast, Pricing Creativity with Author Blair Enns.
Blair Enns is the sand in the free pitching machine. Through his sales training program for creative professionals, Win Without Pitching, he is on a mission to change the way creative services are bought and sold the world over. He is the author of The Win Without Pitching Manifesto and Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond The Billable Hour. Blair lives with his family in the remote mountain village of Kaslo, British Columbia, Canada.
Blair lives in a small mountain village in British Columbia, Canada. He grew up in the center of Canada, in business side of the advertising and design professions. He began as an account manager and moved into new business roles as his strengths developed. He started Win Without Pitching as a consulting practice and a way to earn a living so that he could drop out of the advertising profession.
One day, he realized his limitations in the business were going to take him out if he didn’t change them. He began to scale out and build a training organization in early 2013.
Do you see a lot of creative and profit difference in your circles?
When people start their own small firms as artists, you’re doing it for fun. Sometimes we delude ourselves to think the money will come one day, or that it’s not about the money. One day, you realize you’re tired of having fun and ready to make money.
What do you do if you’re a creative professional who loves design and wants to make money?
If you’re going into business for yourself, the business part is more important than the art. Get a business education. Instead of just being inspired and only focusing on the art; you’ll burn yourself out and be unable to find success. It’s about value creation for your clients. Learn how to select and shape good clients and good engagements, and your best engagements will allow you to bring your artistic skills to the table – always to the ultimate goal of delivering value to the client.
You have something you want to do with every client you have, but it’s not just about you. Your focus is on your client and their different values.
What is price discrimination?
Different people are willing to pay different amounts for the same thing and your job is to let them. The reason they’ll pay different amounts is because the value to them is different. You have the license to charge as much as you want to.
You may evaluate something as valued one way, where your client thinks it’s worth half that.
What do you do in that situation?
Offer options. If your client asks for a proposal, what you put forward should have options. Delivering one proposal puts your client a take-it-or-leave-it situation. They have a choice to make based on comparison, so enable and facilitate them to compare your options and figure out which is the best value. If they don’t like your option, they’ll go away and compare your proposal to other bids. Your clients are going to make comparisons anyway, so enable and facilitate those comparisons for them.
With each proposal, show the client what they’re going to get for different values. They can choose the cost-effective option, but they’re going to gain more from the highest priced option.
What’s value-based pricing?
In a one-on-one situation, have a value conversation. What does the client want from the project? What is their desired future state? Identify the metrics to know how you’ll measure when their desires have been met. Then, decide what the value of this project is. Once you uncover the ideal, start offering some pricing guidance. Give them an idea of what the price will be, starting with a higher number than you actually think it’s going to be. You’re selling a better version of themselves to your client: their desired future state.
What about emotional contributions to value?
Much of an architects work is in this murky bucket. It’s so emotional, and it’s vital that you have a framework to uncover all of that. Put your client in the future where the project has gone swimmingly, and figure out what’s needed to make that journey wonderful. When you get good at this, you’ll realize that your whole focus has shifted from what you can do to your clients’ desires and dreams. The best part is, your clients can feel this shift.
What’s your best marketing tip?
For your next engagement, get some video footage of your client in their pre-build space and have them talk to you about what they want from the space. Document throughout the process and have your prospective clients watch that video.
What is the one thing that small firm architects can do today to build a better business tomorrow?
“Focus. Specialize on something. Expertise comes from pattern matching. See the patterns in the problem, and find the patterns in the solutions. Your ability to command a price premium is rooted in the availably of substitutes. If there are other architects who can do what you do, you have no power to dictate how your services will be bought and sold. Narrow your focus and build deep, specialized belief.” – Blair Enns
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The Win Without Pitching Manifesto (book)
Pricing Creativity: A Guide to Profit Beyond The Billable Hour (book)
Mastering the Value Conversation (podcast)
Win Without Pitching Training Programs (workshop)